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Bastrop State Park After The Wildfires

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Bastrop State park photos for Saving the Lost Pines article 2012
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  • Bastrop State Park—volunteer sign

    A sign asking for volunteers to assist with the Bastrop wildfires is posted on a downtown business window in Bastrop.
  • Bastrop State Park—back of Todd McClanahan

    Bastrop and Buescher State Park Superintendent Todd McClanahan stands near a picnic area that was hit by the fires. "There are so many unknowns right now. This couldn't have come at a worse time with the drought and no relief in the short or long term. We're probably going to go into another La Niña winter and El Niño summer again next year, which as far as recovery efforts, is just horrible."
  • Bastrop State Park—mens room

    Fire came within a few yards of this LP tank and park restrooms. Firefighters worked to defend various structures by hosing down buildings and bulldozing defensible spaces.
  • Bastrop State Park—building

    Fire came dangerously close to many buildings in the park. Firefighters worked to defend various structures by hosing down buildings and bulldozing defensible spaces.
  • Bastrop State Park—pine cone

    Untold thousands of loblolly pine trees in Bastrop State Park have died from drought and fire. Pine needles that fell after the fires have introduced a fresh fire hazard to the landscape.
  • Bastrop State Park—fallen tree

    A fallen tree lies near a hiking trail at Bastrop State Park. Park officials say campgrounds and picnic areas will re-open by December 1. Cabins will re-open February 2012. Hiking trails will be inaccessible for several months as dead trees need to be cleared to ensure the safety of visitors.
  • Bastrop State Park—burned sign

    The remains of a Bastrop State Park sign serve as a reminder of the destruction from the Bastrop wildfires.
  • Bastrop State Park—mobile homes

    Seventeen Texas Parks & Wildlife Department employees lost their homes in Bastrop County. Mobile homes provided by the department are stationed within the park to serve as temporary housing. Some TPWD vehicles and equipment were also destroyed.
  • Bastrop State Park—burned trees

    Trees that once provided shade and shelter for animals now stand like charred toothpicks. While most birds were able to flee the fires, park rangers believe the small mammal population was hit hardest. Animals like squirrels, raccoons and rabbits most likely sought refuge in the trees or tried to burrow down to escape the heat and flames.
  • Bastrop State Park—pond

    A pond that serves as a breeding ground for the endangered Houston toad is flanked by burned trees. Park officials haven't determined yet how the fires impacted the population, as toads won't emerge from their burrows until breeding season, typically in late winter and early spring. Most of the canopy cover needed for shade and protection is gone.
  • Bastrop State Park—check dam

    Bastrop and Buescher State Park Superintendent Todd McClanahan stands next to a ravine that was ravaged by the wildfires. The historic cabins pictured in the background were saved. The stone "check dam" pictured in the bottom center was revealed for the first time after the fires destroyed the overgrowth that had kept it hidden for years.
  • Bastrop State Park—historic building

    Blackened trees stand next to a historic building in Bastrop State Park. The building was constructed after President Franklin Roosevelt's 1933 call for Americans to join the Civilian Conservation Corps—a Peacetime Army that would plant millions of trees, build parks and recreational facilities and provide jobs to young unemployed men. Companies 1805 and 1811 worked in Bastrop and Buescher from 1933 to 1939, turning the undeveloped area into a public recreational park.
  • Bastrop State Park—charred treeline strip

    A charred strip of black treetops can be seen from one of the park's many lookout points. Bastrop is one of the state's most-visited parks, with an estimated 160,000 to 180,000 visitors annually.
  • Bastrop State Park—burnt tree bark

    The blistered bark of a pine tree stands among the ashen ground littered with pine needles—the dead needles add a fresh layer of fire hazard to the park.
  • Bastrop State Park—bark detail

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  • Bastrop State Park—Todd McClanahan driving

    State Park Superintendent Todd McClanahan drives past a cutting area at Bastrop State Park. Thousands of dead trees need to be cut away from the roads and hiking trails before visitors can enter the park.
  • Bastrop State Park—through windshield

    State Park Superintendent Todd McClanahan drives down one of the many roads of Bastrop State Park. "A lot of what people have known this park to be—the tree-covered park roads—it's going to be a lot different."

Jen Reel was an Observer intern before joining the staff in July 2010, first as Web Editor, and most recently as Multimedia Editor. She received a Masters in Journalism with a concentration in Photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was co-chair for the student chapter of the National Press Photographers Association. She has worked in the non-profit sector for the Peruvian-American Medical Society and has been published in Utne Reader magazine, the Village Voice and Pitchfork Music.

The loblolly pines of Bastrop still soar. They just do so darkly, with blistered bark and charred needles. To tour the 6,500-acre Bastrop State Park is to see a forest frozen by fire.

All but 100 acres of this popular park—the heart of the 70,000-acre Lost Pines ecosystem of Bastrop and Lee counties—burned during a massive wildfire in September, leaving behind a landscape of black and gray stillness that forestry experts and park officials are puzzling over.

Read more in "Saving the Lost Pines" by Forrest Wilder.